Monday, 26 October 2009
Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment Bill 2009
Debate resumed from 16 September, on motion by Ms Kate Ellis:
That this bill be now read a second time.
In speaking to the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment Bill 2009, I want to indicate that the opposition lends its support to this bill. This piece of legislation is largely directed towards the governance of ASADA, and the bill will build on the foundations which the former coalition government laid down to stamp out doping in sport. Despite some governance issues that this bill is addressing, the policies of the coalition ensured that ASADA developed a strong international reputation as a world leader in best practice anti-doping regulation.
The coalition improved Australia’s anti-doping effort by replacing the Australian Sports Drug Agency with ASADA in 2006. This was as a result of the Anderson inquiry in 2004 into the Australian track cycling team. We armed this new agency with strong powers to investigate and present cases as well as exchange information with other enforcement agencies. We gave it the power to investigate suspected anti-doping rule violations outlined in the World Anti-Doping Code, to make recommendations on its findings and to present cases against alleged offenders at sport tribunals. We provided an additional $2.24 million to ASADA in the 2007 budget for enhanced investigation of alleged doping violations and the subsequent preparation and submission of briefs in relation to individual cases, bringing total funding to $12.9 million. We launched the ‘stamp out’ hotline in March 2006, where people can report information about possible doping in sport. We established the Register of Findings in March 2006, which makes public the names of athletes who have committed a violation, and we initiated the Athlete Whereabouts information register in March 2007 to further facilitate ASADA’s no advance notice testing program so that athletes can be located at any time and be tested.
Because of the work of the previous government, ASADA has earned a fine international reputation. It now conducts approximately 4,200 government funded tests each year. Additionally, a Curtin University survey found that the proportion of athletes vulnerable to doping had declined in the last four years. The proportion of athletes who would give a lot of or some consideration to taking up an offer of a banned substance had decreased from 16 per cent in 2004 to eight per cent in 2008, in this survey. However, the same survey found that 18 per cent of athletes believed they could get away with using performance-enhancing drugs while out of competition, while six per cent said they could get away with it during competition. Therefore, there is clearly more work to do.
To ensure that our anti-doping efforts are as effective as possible, ASADA, which is central to our fight against doping, must be operating at its optimum. A review of ASADA commissioned by the Department of Health and Ageing in 2008 found that this may not be the case. The review found that the complex governance arrangements made it difficult to resolve disagreements between the ASADA chair, who was also the head of the agency, and the ASADA members. These disagreements have included the strategic direction of ASADA, the testing of schoolboy rowers, the handling of a test result from Ian Thorpe and a Medicare-data-correlating pilot project.
The review found that the definitions of the roles, responsibilities and powers of the ASADA chair and chief executive officer, on the one hand, and the members, on the other, are blurred. The review found that disagreements between the members and the chair-CEO, in the amalgamated role, have therefore been hard to resolve, which has caused tensions to develop and, in some cases, relationships to break down. The review stated:
Many of the problems which have faced ASADA since its inception can be directly attributed to the lack of clarity in the ASADA Act about the roles, powers and functions of the Chair/CEO on the one hand and the non-executive members on the other …
It recommended that two main issues required clarification. The first was the need for clear allocation of roles and responsibilities within ASADA and between ASADA and key stakeholders, including the Department of Health and Ageing. The second issue was the need for a clear distinction between functions through which ASADA acts as an arm of government and functions in which independence from government may be desirable. This bill seeks to alter ASADA’s governance arrangements by ensuring that ASADA operates as a conventional FMA Act agency by removing its CAC Act elements. It will create a new CEO position with an advisory board, create an anti-doping rule violation panel and make changes to the way the National Anti-Doping Scheme will be amended in the future.
The first element is to ensure that ASADA operates as a conventional FMA Act agency by removing its CAC Act elements. When ASADA was established in 2006, its financial arrangements were determined by the FMA Act and its staffing arrangements were determined by the Public Service Act 1999. ASADA was established as a body corporate, consisting of a chair, deputy chair and independent non-executive members who were given decision-making roles. This meant that it would also perform some functions attributable to the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997, the CAC Act. So it had, in a sense, a hybrid nature—features of an agency operating under both the FMA Act and the CAC Act. For the purposes of the FMA Act, the ASADA chair was also the chief executive of the agency. Removing the CAC Act elements and ensuring ASADA operates as an agency under the FMA Act will separate the chair and chief executive roles. We will now have a chief executive officer and an advisory group.
The creation of a new chief executive officer position and a new advisory group is being proposed to clarify the roles and responsibilities within ASADA. The CEO position will be responsible for directing ASADA in carrying out functions prescribed under the ASADA Act, including financial responsibilities normally expected of a CEO under the FMA Act and the Public Service Act. The advisory group will have purely advisory functions. Members will be appointed by the Minister for Sport and will have specialist skills in areas such as education and training, sports medicine, sports law, ethics and investigations.
There will also be a new anti-doping rule violations panel. The panel being created by this bill will replace the current anti-doping rule violation committee. The new panel will consist of members with specialist skills, such as sports law, sports medicine and pharmacology, and will not include the ASADA chief executive, ASADA staff or members of the new advisory group. So there will be very clear separation. The panel will have a quasi-judicial role, in that it will be their responsibility to determine any anti-doping rule violations and make recommendations, which will be given back to the ASADA chief executive officer. It will be his responsibility to notify the individual athletes and the national sporting organisation.
Finally, the bill will change that the way the National Anti-Doping Scheme will be amended in the future. The National Anti-Doping Scheme ensures Australia remains compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code. When the World Anti-Doping Code changes, the NAD Scheme is amended to reflect the changes. Under current arrangements, ASADA can only change the National Anti-Doping Scheme as a whole by a written instrument. Under the new arrangements, which provide more flexibility, the chief executive officer will still make changes via a written instrument, but the bill will include additional matters where the CEO can make changes, allowing him or her the ability to change just sections of the National Anti-Doping Scheme instead of the scheme as a whole.
In conclusion, I regard the legislation as very straightforward. It goes to the governance of ASADA. I believe ASADA has operated well in terms of the functions it has carried out but clearly these governance problems have been identified and they need to be resolved. I think this will be a much better structure going forward. As I said earlier, ASADA has earned an excellent reputation in its work on stamping out doping in sport and Australia maintains a very strong line against doping in sport. It is a matter of pride to Australia that WADA is headed up by an Australian, a former federal minister and former New South Wales Premier, John Fahey.
I wanted to indicate that the opposition support this legislation. It is very straightforward. I would also like to thank the Minister for Sport and her staff and the department for their extensive consultation and briefings on this legislation. The bill is implementing structural changes to the internal operations of ASADA which are consistent with the independent review. It will clarify the roles and responsibilities within ASADA and streamline the way it runs. I indicate the opposition will be supporting this bill.
I thank the chamber for the opportunity to speak on this very important bill, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment Bill 2009. At the outset I congratulate the Minister for Sport, the Hon. Kate Ellis, for her role in bringing this to the parliament and ensuring that the good work that has been done by the Sports Anti-Doping Authority is continued into the future and that in fact it continues to improve as it has done for many years. So I congratulate her for her good work in that particular area.
This is an important bill. Although it is a matter of just some governance changes and some minor amendments and a number of realignments of roles and so forth, all the while it is very important in terms of the way that ASADA actually operates given that it currently exists under what is best described as a hybrid governance model which is subject to a number of acts, particularly the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997. While ASADA has been functioning well, the way it is currently structured and governed and the way the board operates means that there have been a number of internal and structural issues when it comes to decision-making and some confusion as to people’s specific roles or the direction that the board or the organisation actually takes. This is a sensible move forward and I understand the opposition fully support these changes in the bill. We welcome that, because Australia does have a strong reputation for anti-doping in sports and I believe it is important that we continue to build on that reputation and make sure that we continue the good work that has been done to protect sports and sports people and to ensure that the image of sports in Australia is of clean sports without the use of performance enhancing drugs or other drugs.
This legislative change has come about via a review that was commissioned by the Department of Health and Ageing. It found that there were difficulties with the hybrid model of governance that I mentioned earlier, that in itself created some problems, particularly to the extent of authority that was available to non-executive members in the performance of their duties under the ASADA Act. These governance changes will correct that and remove that uncertainty that existed. Basically what the changes to the ASADA Act will mean is the abolition of the positions of ASADA chair and ASADA members. This of course has been done in consultation with those members and they are aware of the impending changes.
The bill will create a new chief executive officer position to fulfil the head of agency role and it will also establish a new independent anti-doping rule violation panel to make sure that decisions on anti-doping rule violations, previously the responsibility of ASADA members, are carried forward and there is a proper way for that to happen. It will also establish an advisory group as part of a consultative forum for the CEO on various matters, such as testing, education, investigations and so forth. There will also be some small incidental changes to align the ASADA Act more closely with changes to the world anti-doping code that came into effect on 1 January this year. So it will align our internal efforts and internal governance within Australia with what is happening on the global stage.
Change will also mean that the method for amending the regulations covering ASADA’s operational activities will provide the parliament with greater scrutiny. I know that there are many members of parliament that are very interested in what takes place in anti-doping activities in sport, particularly in Australia, given that we all believe in a strong stance in this area and given that we want to maintain our reputation as a country that produces sportspeople who are free of drugs, and teams free of drug cheats.
The changes that we are proposing will come into effect on 1 January next year. The amendments that we are proposing do not have a financial impact. As I said earlier, I want to congratulate the Minister for Sport for taking this one. While I understand that there is cross chamber acceptance of the changes, it is good to see that it was she who brought these changes in. It is important legislation. While it is minor in some respects, putting Australia at the forefront of global change in anti-doping activities is important. We all want to get rid of drug cheats in sport. They have no place in sport at any level, be it an individual or team level, a club level or an elite level. Drugs cheating is a dangerous practice, both in terms of a country’s reputation and a sport’s reputation, but also from a health perspective for individual sportspeople.
It is important to note in this debate that these changes will not have any adverse effect on any anti-doping activities that are currently taking place. We are making sure that there will be transitional measures in place to enable the continuity of some key activities that are going on right now—in particular, any decisions relating to any anti-doping rule violations that are in the process of being taken.
Everybody in this House agrees that there is no place for drug cheats in sport at any level, and particularly not at the elite level where people are representing their country. In what some people would describe as a sports mad country, it is fairly important that we take a strong anti-doping stance and that we have a system that matches that stance. It is a pretty widely held view in the community as well. People want to see fair competition and people competing on their merits and not on their ability to take drugs. The potential health risks involved in the taking of either short- or long-term performance-enhancing drugs are worthy of note. We have seen these risks over a number of years in elite sports, with highly talented individuals who have decided to use performance-enhancing drugs often having health problems or taking other drugs. Not only does that affect their ability over the long term, it can also quite substantially shorten their lives. We have seen a number of high-profile deaths over the years relating directly to the harmful use of drugs.
There is an important role for every country to play in making sure that we protect athletes from the pressures that are placed on them when they compete at those elite levels. That is something that we need to acknowledge in this debate: the pressure that is placed on people to continue to perform better and better; to continue to lift; to perform with incredible levels of stamina, fitness or strength; to perform feats beyond the ordinary human being. We have seen that in particular sports, be it football, handball or one of my favourite sports, cycling, where we have seen lots of controversies over the years in world-renowned events such as the Tour de France and others. It always saddens me when I see such controversies because I see the damage that is being done to those sports through the use of drugs. I also see the damage that is being done to ordinary people who participate in those sports when the sport is tarnished with the image of being a drug-cheating sport. This is not isolated to the cycling world. We have seen it occur in the weightlifting world and a whole range of other sports at the Olympics.
It is really important that governments and countries take it upon themselves to do everything they can to ensure that they have the right regulatory frameworks in place. Anti-doping bodies need the right governance, the right structures and the right funding. A strong message also needs to be sent out so that young people in particular do not fall into bad habits or traps early, because that often leads them into some poor practices later in life. Again, I congratulate the Australian government for continuing the commitment to fight against doping—performance enhancing drugs in sport—and for doing that through a range of methods such as detection and through looking at the different opportunities where these drugs can be taken.
The bill before us today, as I said, reflects part of an independent review that was done at the end of last year. The change that we are putting forward is part of a central implementation agency for anti-doping efforts in Australia which will effect its key responsibilities in detecting drug cheats and, through education programs, in discouraging athletes from taking drugs through testing, through investigations and, of course, essentially through enforcement. You have to enforce it at some point. You have to take a tough stance, and sometimes that is done at the high-profile end to send the message back down the line. I strongly believe that this is the right direction in which to go and that we have to send out the right signals. Australia is a leader in this area, and it ought to continue its very good efforts.
There will be some costs associated with the establishment of the new anti-doping review panel and also the advisory group, including member remuneration and some secretarial expenses and so forth. But it will be money well spent. The associated costs will be determined by the Remuneration Tribunal, which is the appropriate place for these things to be done. While the positions of ASADA members are being abolished as part of these changes, as I said before, they will still have a role to play through participation on the interim review panel. Outgoing members who possess the right skills will be eligible for permanent appointment to the new panel or to the advisory group, and members have been consulted on this.
Australia has been renowned for setting a very high bar in this area. We certainly make no apology in terms of that. Our good reputation needs to be continually strengthened, and this bill will do that. I am particularly heartened by the view that we are not operating alone in this area. While our good efforts are unique to Australia, it is important that we align our efforts with those of the rest of the world, given that elite sport is played on a global stage and not just in our own backyards. At the same time, we need to make sure that we protect the rights and privacy of athletes and that we do things the right way.
When this bill takes effect, a number of new positions will be created and some older positions will be abolished. The bill will provide the new body with a governance framework to operate properly. It will remove any of the confusion that previously existed and ensure that anti-doping continues to be a central plank in Australia’s approach to sport and that Australia continues to be at the forefront of anti-doping measures around the world. It will ensure that, when our athletes compete, they will be confident that the athletes whom they compete against are not drug cheats and that there is a level playing field. Our athletic champions, our sports people, will know that all their hard work and effort over many, many years can be rewarded appropriately by competing against people who are not cheating the system and who are not on drugs. I commend the bill to the House.
The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment Bill 2009 has been promoted, in particular, as a series of administrative changes. It has some quite serious implications and is worthy, I think, of some comment in that regard. These amendments—or series of administrative changes—were, quite properly, brought forward due to a considerable discourse within the management of ASADA that resulted in disputes about the privacy rights of athletes. There was a virtual zero tolerance process that some of the executive thought was appropriate but which was rejected by others. In the case of Thorpe, possibly that enthusiasm was acceded to. This bill is an attempt to bring forward a new regime that is expected, I think, to be more successful on both sides of the fence, and it warrants some discussion as to those matters.
I continue to have an involvement in the ownership and training of racehorses. I served for nine years on the committee of the Western Australian Turf Club and for two years as the chairman. Nowhere else, historically, has the issue of performance-enhancing drugs been more prominent than in the racing industry. Originally, it only applied to the animals. At the turf club, particularly under my chairmanship, we took a very strong position in regard to the taking of narcotic type drugs—so-called recreational drugs, a label that I do not agree with—by jockeys, track riders and other persons in the industry. An interesting aspect of the horseracing industry is that everybody is licensed, right down to the stablehand. As such, a simple punishment is to withdraw that licence. Of course, the consequence is that it takes away that person’s living. It is a very dramatic punishment. You can imagine a top jockey who, being delicensed for three or six months, might miss out on riding the Melbourne Cup winner, where five per cent of a couple of million dollars is a reasonable fee for the amount of time spent on the horse’s back.
When the first person so charged came forward—and it was for the use of marijuana—he was quite put out. He said, ‘I had my last puff on Wednesday. You tested me on Saturday, and I was clearly no danger on the back of the horse.’ Our response to that was to say, ‘You are an elite athlete. You are surrounded by young apprentices and others wishing to learn the trade of horse riding. It is a lousy example to set and you had better stop it.’ That process continued, and all of sudden our stewards started turning up at track work in the morning and asking certain licensed personnel to submit a sample. That really put the cat amongst the pigeons until the industry woke up to the fact that it was not smart to do it.
I make that point, because I have been enraged for a long time, considering the processes of the Australian Football League, the AFL: three strikes and you are out. Again, if one goes back to racing parlance, the odds of catching someone three times, considering it is a random testing process, are extremely wide, and, in my mind, it was an incentive to take a couple of risks in the hope that you did not get caught. That, of course, achieved high farce when I discovered that a 17-year-old draft pick could have a positive test to one of these drugs and such were the rules of the AFL that their parents could not be involved in the circumstances. You just cannot believe that, under the pressure of the players’ association, any organisation could accommodate those arrangements.
One of the situations that I want to bring to the attention of the House is that when one talks of performance-enhancing drugs there is a supposition that it will be some sort of steroid, blood-doping product et cetera. I suggest that, as one who back in 1976 had a very severe car accident that pulled one of his feet off, I do not run very well anymore. Maybe that is why I never run away! But the fact of life is that I have incessant pain in one of my ankles, and that stops me running. It is still accepted in human sport—not horse racing—that painkillers are an acceptable treatment. I well remember that on his retirement one of Australia’s better fast bowlers, Bruce Reid, commented that he had to give up the painkillers he was taking because they were sending him dizzy. One of the retired women’s champions who came back to the sport more recently gave as a reason for retirement at the time that the type of painkiller she was taking to address whatever physical injury she was suffering was affecting her health.
But you read in the paper that so-and-so is being given painkilling injections so he can run out on the football ground today. There is a tragedy behind that. Of course that has enhanced that player’s performance; but, more particularly, you are masking the pain signals that say, ‘Give your leg a rest,’ ‘Give your back a rest,’ or, ‘Give your arm a rest.’ That is what pain is all about. Imagine Bart Cummings stepping out one of his Melbourne Cup fancies on the day. Imagine if it were limping in the morning and he said to a journalist, ‘Don’t you worry; we’ll give it a painkilling injection before the race and it’ll go all right.’ There is the example of the death of Damien Oliver’s brother—yet to be resolved in the courts. It was killed and it killed the jockey in the process. In a trial the young horse he was riding showed positive; it was running with sore legs which had been masked by a fairly common treatment known as Butazolidin, and of course that young horse did not know to give its leg a rest and it broke. It rolled over and it killed the jockey, Damien Oliver’s brother.
Those sorts of matters are taken so seriously with animals but not so seriously with human beings. ASADA and the World Anti-Doping Code have no rules about performance-enhancing drugs. I note some tennis player picked up for taking the so-called recreational drug cocaine. I hear on the radio of research recently done in Holland by a woman who looked into the production of legal cocaine during the First World War. There was massive growth in production, which she suggested was because the troops were getting it. I quote that as published research—I do not want it to be attributed to me—but this raises the question of aggression: were the generals of that period, who I thought were murderers, feeding the troops this sort of treatment through a cup of rum or something like that if it gave them the courage and the stupidity to run out in front of machine guns and be mowed down? But, again, that then takes us to the step in the recreational area of the violence that is now so commonplace and that is frequently blamed on alcohol. I think there is a link between the two, and it is doubly worse. I am totally convinced.
In my previous life I was a hotel keeper for about 30 years, and as recreational drugs, as they are known, came to be part of people’s needs to have a good time—I never could work out why they needed it, but they did—I noticed an increase in violence. More particularly, as one who had to maintain order in his premises, I found that I was dealing with an entirely different type of person in a number of ways: there were people who could not be convinced to behave themselves and who were inclined to very violent acts. I was in the industry for 30 years and in 28 of those years I never saw anybody kick anyone lying on the ground, and yet that is a common factor and it is related to fatalities—but that is extending the debate somewhat.
This particular legislation gives me the opportunity to draw the attention of the House to a tennis player who has tested positive to cocaine and is doing time. He is banned from the sport for a given period notwithstanding that cocaine can be performance enhancing. All the original doping of racehorses was done with heroin and my old-time mentors reckoned the horses went pretty well on that. Elephant juice, which resulted in the tragedy of the horse that nearly died at the end of the Perth Cup, is only super-refined heroin and is so strong that if you want to give it to a horse you pull 10 millilitres into a syringe, squirt it all back and then pull in 10 millilitres of water, and the residual drug in the needle and around the edges of the syringe is sufficient to dope a horse and for it to run two miles when it is dead on its feet after a mile because it has no pain signals.
The point that I want to make is that while the tennis player got time for cocaine the AFL thinks it is okay unless you get caught three times. That is just outrageous and should never have been the case. To the credit of other sports like rugby, I do not think the ‘three strikes before you’re out’ rule applies, and nor should it. Human trainers, the football coaches and others, have become a little more responsible about resting players who have suffered injury. I can well remember reading years ago about a coach who said that when you go out on the football field you have to take a bit of pain. But, as I said, pain is a warning. Pain tells you to give yourself a rest. Pain is exhaustion and exhaustion is pain. Lactic acid suddenly discharging into the muscles of a horse or, I assume, a human being indicates that you had better give yourself a rest. Yet one of the most interesting doping techniques of recent times—particularly in the horse industry, and you wonder about others—involves bicarbonate of soda. We now have a testing regime for it, and it is very difficult because under a certain figure it occurs naturally in the animal. If you can get enough bicarb of soda into a horse within an hour of him racing, he will feel no pain because the bicarb of soda dilutes the lactic acid discharge. But the question is whether you should you do that to an animal and whether you should do that to a human.
All of these issues, if the ASADA people bother to read my speech, are issues to be addressed. It is wrong to give painkilling injections to an athlete and to be able to do so publicly. That was the case with Reid and with this tennis player. Reid said he was getting too dizzy and that he could not take any more of the stuff because his bowling arm had become so painful. That should not be, and I hope that at some stage ASADA and the World Anti-Doping Code recognise that painkillers of any format are as much a performance-enhancing drug as some steroids. In fact, if I were taking a practical view I would say that at some stage a person wishing to recover from an injury might think that they could enhance their repair with some steroid assistance that passed from their system, to their benefit, but that of course is a no-no. I wonder in practical terms whether a healing process is as unfair as a pain-masking process that can be applied on the day of the race—for humans but not for racehorses, dogs or other animals. In both cases I think it is really of grave concern and it is a huge gap in the entire process of assessing athletes so that they meet one another on the same level playing field. There just seems to be a thought that humans can run with pain masking of that nature. Most of these drugs are narcotic. Any of the usual injections you get to kill pain will have a narcotic base, and it is not good stuff.
The legislation is welcome. It creates a new administrative regime which will hopefully be proven, in time, as effective. But, if there is any weakening of the virtually zero tolerance system that should apply, it will not be successful. When someone is consuming drugs for whatever purpose I am not sure that they are entitled to privacy protection. It is said that ASADA wanted to look at Medicare records and find out what drugs people purchase, and that was considered a bridge too far. Getting further from the issue, a pharmacist well known to me and residing in my electorate said to me the other day that, when it comes to the recording of drug sales, if you need a particular antibiotic or other drug that is extremely expensive to Medicare the doctor has to ring up and get approval to prescribe it. But, if you are out prescription-shopping to get some of the somewhat lesser drugs that can be converted into quite serious recreational drugs, the doctors do not have to report that. This pharmacist thinks that is just dopey.
Outside of the ASADA issue, governments are worried about the cost of drugs and therefore make them reportable. But the kinds of drugs that people can go from doctor to doctor and get a prescription for are dangerous and can be turned into very dangerous products, yet there is no reporting process. A doctor has no responsibility to ring up as he issues a prescription, thereby creating a database that would say, ‘This person’s got five prescriptions today.’ The pharmacist gave me not only an example of that but an example of something that resulted in a fatality. So this is a chance to put that on the record. The advisers here might want to ring up and ask Medicare or the health commission why it is that doctors do not have to report those sorts of prescriptions, when as soon as the cost goes beyond a certain degree in terms of other medications they are obliged to do so.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment Bill 2009. I listened to the member for O’Connor, who has just finished speaking, and he made a number of very constructive comments in his contribution to this debate. I speak on this matter as someone who has undergone sports drug testing on several occasions. I am familiar with the process, the procedures and the obligations of the various authorities that carry out those tests. The intent of this bill is to restructure the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and, in doing so, create three separate functions in its the structure: firstly, a new chief executive officer role to fill the head of agency role in accordance with the Financial Management and Accountability Act; secondly, a new independent anti-doping rule violation panel to make decisions on anti-doping rule violations; and, thirdly, an advisory group as a consultative forum for the CEO.
The new structure should make the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority a much more effective organisation and better equip it to deal with the emerging challenges ahead. Since drug testing was first introduced into the Olympic Games in 1968, and in Australia in the early 1980s, the challenges faced by anti-doping agencies around the world have become far more complex than previously and they will continue to increase in complexity.
For sports administrators and anti-doping authorities, the prevention of drug use by athletes poses a far more difficult task than that faced by many other law enforcement agencies. In support of that statement, I point to the following facts. Firstly, sports supremacy attracts huge sums of money, often in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars. Secondly, sports performance is associated with international supremacy amongst nations. One has only to look at the huge sums of money invested in preparation for Olympic athletes by some nations to understand the importance placed on sports performance by national governments around the world. Thirdly, national governments have been accused, from time to time, of being complicit in the administration of, and perhaps even in developing, the drugs administered to athletes. Fourthly, the science behind sports drugs is changing frequently. The ability of anti-doping authorities to keep up with the latest science presents them with an incredibly difficult task.
The black market sports performance enhancement drug industry is today estimated to be worth billions of dollars. When one combines the value of the sports drugs black market with the sports contracts, and the entertainment contracts and commercial value of the sporting sector, one begins to understand the power of the drivers and the magnitude of the obstacles faced by anti-doping agencies.
Let me make it absolutely clear: sports drug use is not limited to Olympic or Commonwealth Games athletes. I noted the comments by the member for O’Connor a moment ago when he was reflecting on the violence that he sees today, as compared with many years ago—I think he made reference to kicking someone when they were down on the ground. One of the side-effects that I am well aware of for one of the drugs often taken by athletes—and people who work in the security industry, who quite often, are the very people who secure hotels—causes extremely violent behaviour. It is not unusual to see the kind of activity that the member for O’Connor was referring to, not only because the person involved in the brawl is either intoxicated or on drugs, but also because the people who are supposedly expected to provide security are themselves taking different kinds of drugs. They do so because they need to in order to secure their employment. They need to in order to maintain the size that will give them the opportunity to gain employment in that particular industry.
Sports drug use, as I said, is not limited to Olympic or Commonwealth Games athletes at all. Whatever one looks to, the goal to win or to entertain drives some athletes to turn to drugs. I will explain what I mean by ‘entertain’. We had the comment earlier on about footballers or tennis players, but we also have professional wrestling as a good example, where predominantly the objective of whatever these athletes are doing is to entertain. The ability of these people to be entertainers is dependent on their athletic ability. Their athletic ability often drives them to turn to drugs in order to be able to perform at the level required, which in turn, provides them with the entertainment opportunity and the income that goes with it.
Sometimes the athlete is driven by the desire to win and other times by the desire to just remain competitive. At times, because performance is a sport star’s livelihood and the athlete fears being unable to continue to compete professionally, they turn to performance-enhancing drugs. Again, I am well aware of individual athletes who have done that because without drugs they are unlikely to be able to compete at the level that provides them with their income.
At times it is even driven by governments who demand results from the investments that they have made in their athletes. I think all of us in this chamber would be aware of some of the accusations that have been made in respect of the way different countries prepare their athletes for major international events. I will leave everyone to draw their own conclusions from those accusations, but it seems to me that if there were a worldwide consistent, uniform attempt to stamp out performance-enhancing drugs, we probably would not have seen some of the events that we have seen in the past with athletes subsequently being proven to have taken performance-enhancing drugs.
With the pressures of having to compete and the huge sums of money that are at stake, avoiding drug use detection has itself become an industry. Masking drugs and other detection avoidance practices have become common practices. In discussing this matter we generally focus on the need to ensure a level playing field for athletes and sport participants and there is no question that it is a critical objective. Any competitor who has an unnatural advantage because of the use of performance-enhancing drugs is not competing fairly, and it defeats the spirit of the contest.
But it goes much further than that, because competing with an unfair advantage deprives other competitors of the opportunities that come with winning. These are opportunities that may be the culmination of a lifetime of devotion, sacrifice and sheer hard work, the very qualities that should be rewarded in sports performance. These are opportunities which sometimes come only once in a lifetime, when an athlete’s performance peaks. I will explain that particular point. We often talk about sports performance in parliament, and I noted that it was raised recently when we were talking about a citizenship bill and the ability to compete in the Olympic Games which come around once every four years. For some athletes their ability to peak will only happen once in their lifetime and they need to try to ensure that that coincides, if they are wanting to compete in the Olympic Games, with when the games are held. If they are denied the opportunity to win because someone has been taking drugs, they are denied the opportunity to achieve a whole lifetime of ambition, which might have started when they were children, and they have committed their whole life to performing at that level. But with it also comes the denial of the opportunities that subsequently come from having been an Olympic gold medallist and so on. It is not just a case of people winning because they have taken drugs. The athlete who has not taken drugs has been denied so much. That is why it is so unfair and why we should do whatever we can to ensure that when athletes do compete they compete fairly and not with the assistance of performance-enhancing drugs.
There are other matters that concern me about this particular issue. To begin with, most of the sports performance-enhancing drugs that are bought are bought illegally on the black market. They are sold not by medical or pharmaceutical professionals but by drug pushers, mostly—maybe not in all cases—with limited medical knowledge or no medical knowledge at all. They have little understanding of the long-term medical effects, little understanding of the immediate side effects and little understanding of the risks associated with the drugs. There can be serious risks if the athlete has a known medical condition or is on other prescribed drugs.
Under normal circumstances, a medical professional prescribes the drugs the person has taken and takes precautions before prescribing other drugs at any time. In other words, they look at what drugs a person is on before they prescribe another drug. I am talking here not about sports-performance-enhancing drugs but about any form of drugs. They ensure that there is not going to be a contraindication as a result of other drugs being taken by the patient. When it comes to the sellers of sports-performance-enhancing drugs—I am referring to those that are being sold on the black market—the chances are that no such precautions are taken, placing the athletes at real risk. The risks are high and, in fact, can be devastating, including loss of life.
The second matter I raise with respect to the supply of sports-performance-enhancing drugs is this: not only are the drugs often prescribed and supplied by nonprofessionals but the quality of the drugs provided may be below standard. I refer to drugs which, I understand, are made by rogue pharmaceutical manufacturers or to out-of-date drugs sold by illegal distributors rather than being properly disposed of. As if that were not bad enough, I understand that there are also black market sellers who have supplied veterinary-grade drugs to athletes.
I have seen lives destroyed because of the physical and psychological side effects of performance-enhancing drugs. Equally distressing to those people was that the use of those very drugs never, ever resulted in any worthwhile or rewarding personal achievement. The drugs were sold to them on the premise ‘These drugs will achieve super wonders for you,’ and they never, ever got there, yet they had to endure the health risks that went with the drugs for no valuable gain whatsoever. Sports-performance-enhancing drugs are not only taken by elite sportspeople. I believe that there is widespread use of them right across different sectors of the community, including, as I said a moment ago, perhaps in the security industry around Australia.
The third matter I raise with respect to sports drugs is that the testing regime itself, while vastly improved since the 1980s, still has limitations in that it does not detect all drugs or drugs that are not registered or even known. There is no easy response with regard to the prevention of performance-enhancing drugs, particularly when spectator numbers are driven by the desire to witness record-breaking performances. The organisers know that, the sponsors know that and the authorities know that. The temptation to turn a blind eye to drugs is huge.
The last matter I will raise about the prevention of drugs in sport is the cost associated with the drug testing itself. Most sporting organisations engage the federal government through ASADA to carry out the drug testing on their behalf. The cost of the testing is borne by the club or organisation. The costs are quite high, and therefore sporting organisations are limited in the number of tests they can carry out. Clearly, if we could find a cheaper way of carrying out the tests, it would make it possible for organisations to carry out more tests, which would make it a little easier for them to stamp out drug taking within the sports.
There is a lot more I could say on this issue. I realise that my time is running out and that we are trying to get this matter concluded today. I will close by saying this: it will be extremely difficult to prevent the use of sports-performance-enhancing drugs through any form of regulation or procedure that we engage in. However, it is important that we do whatever we can to try and stamp them out, for a whole range of very good reasons. This particular bill, I believe, provides us with a much improved process and authority to do that. I believe that it will add to the work we are doing and to our ability to stamp out drug taking. For those reasons I support it, but I still believe we have a long way to go.
I rise to speak on the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment Bill 2009. In primary school, secondary school and even in the Army I liked to play football. As people would often remind me, I was limited by only a few things: ability, coordination and skill. So I found my way into the sport of rowing, at 11 years old, back in 1975. I was involved in the sport for some 27 years, until 2002. I competed competitively in almost all states around the country, and in other places, with time in the Army. I was also fortunate enough to win a couple of Australian championships, having represented the sport at state level three times and once at the under-23 Australian level. By ‘represent’ I mean that I pretty much made it to the top level of the state in 1985 and to the under-23 Australian level in 1984. I was at my competitive peak in the mid-eighties, and I have no recollection whatsoever of any antidoping testing in rowing at that time. Maybe it was just that I was never selected. Maybe people looked at my performance and realised that there was no way drugs could possibly be enhancing that sort of performance. In any case, I have no recollection of it. It was probably in the 1990s, when I was studying for a level 2 coaching qualification, that I developed some knowledge of testing for performance-enhancing drugs.
Drug cheating in sports probably came to the notice of Australians in 1988 when, at the Seoul Olympics, the infamous Ben Johnson cheating incident took place, when he won the 100-metre gold medal only to be stripped of it later following a drug test. Since 1988 we have heard many reports of a constant string of drug cheats from around the world, particularly in sports such as bike riding, weightlifting, swimming and at a high-profile athletics event recently, with the public disgrace of the now infamous United States multiple gold medallist Marion Jones. Australians would also have seen interviews with famous Australian sports men and women in which they have made allegations about athletes of other nations being involved in drugs and the advantages that our opponents have achieved as a result of cheating with those performance-enhancing drugs.
I do not wish to dwell too much on this specific matter, but I would like to emphasise the importance of deterrence as the main objective because, while detection after the fact is vital, at the elite level the awarding of gold medals at international events, such as the Olympic Games, is pretty much the pinnacle for an athlete. Athletes desperately want to cross the finish line first and stand on the podium, receiving the accolade as best of the best. If a winner is later disqualified and the medal is given to the clean winner, the moment of the race and the stand on the podium can never be replicated. That is the reason why deterrence and the elimination of drug cheats before the event is important to those who would otherwise have won.
Following on from the problems in the late 1980s, in 1990 the Australian Sports Drug Agency was established as a result of the Australian Sports Drug Agency Act, with a mission to deter the use of banned doping practices in sport. At that time, ASDA undertook education, testing and advocacy services and coordinated the Australian antidoping program. ASDA’s programs were directed at athletes, coaches, sports science and medical personnel, and sports administrators. I recall having some knowledge of this when I was undertaking my level 2 coaching course for rowing in Canberra in 1998. As part of a course at the Australian Institute of Sport we had a session with ASDA, as it was at that time. We were given an explanation of how performance-enhancing drugs worked, and of course the health risks involved, as well as an explanation of the way the testing of athletes was actually carried out.
On 23 June 2005, the coalition government announced a decision to add additional functions to those undertaken by ASDA and rename it, thereby establishing the new and independent anti-doping body Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, or ASADA, to commence operations in 2006. Beyond the duties previously undertaken by ASDA, ASADA would be able to investigate doping allegations and present cases at hearings. In addition to the existing budget allocation for ASDA, ASADA received an additional appropriation of $1.298 million in 2005-06 and an additional $4.571 million over the following three years.
With regard to drugs in sport, I think we can say that predominantly Australia can lay claim to a good record and is relatively clean in this area. In the last financial year ASADA conducted 2,158 out-of-competition and 2,084 in-competition government funded tests. Another 2,395 tests were undertaken on a user-pays arrangement comprising AFL, NRL, rugby union, A league and Cricket Australia athletes. In 2007-08, 64 cases were managed by ASADA, 39 involving a sanction, of which, 18 admitted a violation. It is therefore clear that there is a problem and that vigilance must be maintained. However, I would to say that there are fine lines to be drawn on some of these matters. We know professional athletes take supplements and tablets, and they get injections. Hopefully they do these things in the belief that what they take is not illegal.
In researching this speech I looked at the case of the triathlete Rebekah Keat who tested positive to a drug test in 2004 following the Western Australian Ironman event. She was suspended for two years and has returned to competition, but has fought to clear her professional name and restore her reputation. Rebekah Keat was able to prove that a supplement, Endurolyte, was contaminated with the steroid precursor norandrostenedione. I understand that the fight to clear her name cost Rebekah Keat a lot of money and I commend her on her determination, although given her background in a most arduous sport it is little surprise that she fought hard.
That is not to say that we do not have real cases of Australians who have cheated by using performance enhancing drugs thereby justifying the need for having ASADA. Werner Reiterer, a field athlete, admitted to taking drugs before the Sydney Olympics and said that officials turned a blind eye to it. He was rightly taken to task for refusing to name names, thereby contributing to ongoing problems in the sport. In 2004, there was the case of Australian weightlifter Caroline Pileggi who received a mandatory two-year ban for refusing a drug test. Following legal action culminating in a failed Federal Court appeal, she had the two-year ban upheld. As I understand it, the member for Isaacs was the unsuccessful QC in that matter. No doubt he would have some interesting views regarding this legislation.
There have been other cases and the facts demonstrate that, sadly, Australia is not completely clean, although I would always say that we are among the best for clean sport and with our athletes. Nevertheless the record does show that we have an ongoing need to have strong and effective deterrents and mechanisms to lead the fight against drugs in Australian sport. In closing, no-one should ever be able to gain a competitive advantage in sport through illegal methods. This bill will aid in clarifying the roles and responsibilities within ASADA, as well as streamlining its processes. The need to adapt to changing circumstances has been demonstrated in regard to drugs in sports. The need for ASADA to adapt has also been recognised. I support this bill to improve its capabilities, and maintain and improve the standing of Australian sport in the world.
I rise in support of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment Bill 2009 and also to support the comments made by the Minister in her second reading speech when she said:
I think all of us would agree that doping and drug cheats have no place in sport.
The Australian government is committed to the fight against doping—and is determined to ensure that performance enhancing drugs are detected, dealt with and deterred at every possible opportunity.
In a sports loving country like Australia a strong anti-doping system is essential to protect the integrity of our sporting competitions and also protect our athletes from the potentially harmful health effects of using prohibited substances and methods. …
This bill amends the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Act 2006, ASADA Act, to keep the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, ASADA, Australia’s peak anti-doping in sports agency, at the forefront of global and local efforts to stamp out drug cheats.
Specifically, the bill reflects the need for new structural and governance arrangements to ensure the efficiency of ASADA antidoping programs today as well as into the future. ASADA is a key implementation agency for Australia’s antidoping efforts, supporting the Australian government in coordinating and harmonising antidoping initiatives with states and territories and of course with our national sporting organisations at the core of antidoping methods in this country. ASADA’s responsibilities include detecting drug cheats and discouraging drug use through education programs, testing, investigations and enforcement. As a former elite football coach at the under-18 level, I knew that the challenges were there then in order to educate our young athletes who were trying to get to the AFL about performance-enhancing drugs.
However, this issue is also one of recreational drug use in regard to the challenges, and I think that our country has an attitude towards recreational drug use that needs to be addressed and addressed quickly. I think that far too often we are seeing high-profile athletes as well as high-profile people come out and say that throughout their careers or throughout their life they have used recreational drugs. I think our whole culture around the recreational drug issue and the fact that some people still think that it is all right to be doing it rubs off on how young people think when it comes to performance-enhancing drugs. I touch on what the member for Cowan alluded to. For me it was Ben Johnson and the fact that as an 18-year-old watching the Seoul Olympics and very much enthralled with athletics I felt absolutely gutted the next day when I saw that this race, 9.93 seconds for the 100 metres, had been drug affected. I think we were all in awe of this athlete from Canada, but he did not quite look right, I must admit. He had a fairly big solid body and a tiny head, but he certainly ran. The next day when it came out that he was a drug cheat and had been found guilty of using anabolic steroids I think the world was in shock at how this had happened.
And disappointed. After that we saw Florence Griffith Joyner, who also had a career and her life cut short through anabolic steroid use. We certainly saw the demise of Marion Jones in more recent times. I once read a survey where they spoke to Olympic athletes. The member for Makin touched on this, that they get a very small window to do the best they can. Once every four years they get to run in the Olympics and they get the world championships two years in between. There is a lot of training and a lot of effort goes in for that very small window. They once surveyed Olympic athletes and over 80 per cent said that they would take an anabolic steroid that could cost them their life if it was the difference between winning and not winning a gold medal. To me that is just an amazing statistic, to think that so many would risk their life to do it.
Think of all the great sportspeople we have had in the last century, the Dawn Frasers, the Herb Elliotts, the Betty Cuthberts and those types of athletes in that, I suppose, golden era of athletics. They were household names and fantastic athletes. They were not full-time professionals, they did not get paid anywhere near the amount of money they get paid today. They had to be amateurs to compete in the Olympics and compete in the Commonwealth Games. But they were raw athletes who could ply their trade without any sort of enhancement. The fact of the matter was that those athletes won just through sheer hard work. I find that it is totally unacceptable that athletes can use drugs in order to skip past hard work. Recently in Darwin we had the natural body-building contests. Ronnie Coleman is the seven-time Mr Olympia, I think, and I think a bit of enhancement has gone into Ronnie’s biceps; I have got no doubt about that. Certainly the natural body-building competition was there for all to see. It sends a very ordinary message, I think, that you can have a natural body-building contest and an unnatural body-building contest.
The evolution of athletes in America, who are constantly being caught with performance-enhancing drugs, especially in professional football and baseball, is a blight on sport globally. The problem is that these people have massive profiles, they are paid an enormous amount of money—as the member for Makin touched on—and they are put up on a pedestal for young people to aspire to. And it is not only at the elite level. I am sure that among the second- and third-tier athletes, who are trying to get that extra edge in order to capture their full potential and become full-time professionals, drug use would be absolutely rife. There are no protections for those athletes and there is very limited testing of those athletes. There is a lot of hearsay and innuendo about who is taking drugs and who is involved in performance-enhancing drug activities, yet there is no testing and there are no protections in place. It is not until they get to the highest level that they are caught out, or, by that stage, they may have decided to go clean and not use drugs. However, the damage to their bodies has already been done; and maybe, when using drugs in order to get to the next level, they have beaten athletes who are doing the right thing—only to fail when they get there because they are not able to use the drugs they have used in the past.
The first change in this bill is that ASADA will be headed solely by a CEO, who will be responsible for operational and strategic matters. Secondly, under the proposed new arrangements, the current ASADA members structure will be replaced with a new model to ensure that the functions previously undertaken by ASADA members continue—for example, decisions on anti-doping rule violations. Thirdly, this bill will establish an advisory group that will primarily be a consultative forum for the CEO on matters such as education, testing and investigations and provide advice to assist in the development, implementation and continuous improvement of the delivery of ASADA’s core business. The advisory group will consist of a chair and a small group of members comprising individuals with relevant skills in areas such as education, stakeholder services, sports medicine, sports law, ethics and investigations.
It is really important that this group works closely with all sports. I really believe that Australian sport is the cleanest. That is through the efforts of ASADA, but it is also about education. There is no silver bullet to address this issue. I think the education of young athletes is paramount because it is when they are 10, 11 or 12 years old that they set their own standards, their own agenda and their own ideas about what is fair and what is best for them. As a coach of elite athletes during my time with the AFL, I found that what you teach the kids at that stage of their lives they carry right through their career. I am currently training with a friend of mine, Duncan MacGillivray, whom I coached when he was 15 years old. He went on to play for six years at Penrith, two years at South Sydney Rabbitohs and four years at Wakefield Trinity. He had a 12-year professional rugby league career and he has just moved back to Darwin. I am hanging out with him and doing some training and some weights.
He was a second rower but did not carry a lot of weight. As a medium-sized player who played in a tough position, he said there was enormous pressure on him to use performance-enhancing drugs in order to put weight on. I thank God that he did not. He is a healthy specimen. He played for 12 years on his natural ability. He is certainly a role model for all the young players of the future in Darwin. They do not need to go down that track. Duncan MacGillivray was a lightweight footballer with a lot of determination, a lot of heart and a very good work ethic. He was able to edge out a career with the body structure he inherited when he was born.
The bill also introduces changes to the mechanism by which the National Anti-Doping Scheme will be amended in the future. Currently, ASADA can amend the National Anti-Doping Scheme through a disallowable legislative instrument. It is a very important bill. I fully support the minister on this issue. I think it is paramount that as a society, and certainly in our sporting community, we continue to have an anti-drugs approach and a zero-tolerance attitude towards enhancing performance through the use of drugs. I commend all the speakers who have spoken on this bill—especially the member for Cowan and the member for Makin, who have had personal experience in their own sports. The member for Cowan’s career has involved body-building and those types of activities, and he has an enormous amount of knowledge on this subject.
It will be a difficult process to continue to be vigilant in this area. I know that some countries around the world certainly do not have our vigilance and our zero-tolerance attitude. As a coach, I never wanted to put any of my athletes in a dangerous position and I never wanted them to suffer the long-term effects of decisions that I made as a coach, or decisions that our strength and conditioning coaches may have made on their behalf. I think we really have a duty of care. As a coach, you have got an enormous amount of responsibility, and when the final siren goes you want to make sure that everyone who has been in your care is not worse off because of it. When it comes down to preparing your athletes, there is no room in sport at all to enhance their preparation through the use of substances. It is not only cheating and making it an unfair playing field for all participants, but very often it is putting the life of your athletes at risk. I do not think it is an acceptable position.
I commend ASADA and I also commend the sporting organisations right across Australia that have got accreditation through their coaching programs. With my accreditation in the last 10 to 15 years as a level 2 rugby league coach, as well as a level 3 Aussie Rules coach, I think Australia is at the forefront of accreditation of our coaches. It is a holistic approach, not just teaching the skills of the game but also teaching the safety aspects of the game and educating young people about the dangers of not only social drugs but also anabolic steroids and performance-enhancing drugs.
As I said, it will be an ongoing battle. Australia has absolutely led the world with our stance on performance-enhancing drugs. I am happy to have spoken today in support of the minister. I think this is a really good bill. It is non-controversial. I know from the comments and contributions made that it is supported by those opposite. Very rarely do I agree with what the member for O’Connor says in this place, but, in his absence, I thought he made a very worthy contribution, and one that I support, on pain-killing injections. As a coach, that is a duty of care issue that you have for your athletes.